Louisa leaves the Daniel Centre in mid-March for a Hungarian government youth programme, so Balazs has been advertising for a replacement.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has visited their partners in the Ukraine safely despite advice to the contrary.
They await a completion certificate to complete the sale of their Cluj depot tomorrow.
Balazs has his reporting for Christian Aid to complete at beginning of March and Christian Aid’s Chief Financial Officer will visit the 3 Ukrainian partners next month.
With 2 new lads coming in, they now have a full Daniel Centre – and without any drug issues for the first time in a long time.
Balazs and new Blythswood CEO Jeremy Ross and their wives will visit Cornerstone in Mumbai, India for 4 days in early April and then, also with Jeremy, Serbia and perhaps the 2 Roma churches in Bulgaria in late April. In May, James and Jeremy will be in Romania to meet with all the Eastern Union Blythswood leaders for James’s farewell as the Blythswood CEO though he wil remain as chairman of Blythswood Romania for the time being.
Work continues to go well for Adi in Jimboliya. He is still running remedial work for half a dozen older girls in Talita Kum 3 though no building work is envisaged for that programme for now.
Fraser’s Kenyan visa application has been approved and he travels next week. He has identified a server problem and put a temporary work-around in place. He needs to balance the competing claims on his time and clear his in-tray before his trip to Kenya.
May the men in the Maximum Bible study learn about dealing with conflict and put it into practice as necessary.
The first ocarina lesson at Drakenstein Maximum was very well received. Ten men were delighted with their new instruments and Dawn’s not seen as many smiles from men and even passing warders in Maximum before. In a place of so much darkness, fear, cruelty, selfishness, misery, and despair, thank God for this opportunity for light, joy, sharing, and creativity.
Bad acoustics, accents and quiet voices can make it hard to know what men are saying in Maximum and Medium A as Dawn tries to respond appropriately to them.
Wiekus in Maximum was being tormented by a man in his room. He now praises the Lord and thanks everyone for their prayers – things have changed in ways he couldn’t have imagined. The man has become more considerate. He even asked Wiekus’ opinion on a film to be shown on the room television. He then admitted that he’d enjoyed the Christian film. Now Wiekus has no desire to move cells, instead seeing fresh opportunities for relationships and witness to unbelievers in the room he’s in.
The Gang Restorative Justice orientation/finding out meeting is on Monday next week. The first day proper will be Thursday. May lives be changed – God is preparing the way, pray Dawn and Ashley won’t let him down.
Barnabas Aid, 21st February 2024
Christians in Laos urgently need our prayers. Whilst citizens of Laos have the right and freedom “to believe or not to believe in religions” according to the country’s constitution, followers of Jesus are still subject to repeated harassment in rural areas.
Village leaders and residents tore down the private home where Christians were gathered and interrupted a worship service in Savannakhet province on Sunday 4 February.
“The village authorities came here and tore down our home at around 10.30 a.m. Sunday morning,” reported a worshipper at the church in Kaleum Vangke village in Xonboury district. The eyewitness added that the mob burned Bibles and other documents in the assault.
A “Law on the Evangelical Church”, in force since December 2019, gives Christians the right to conduct services, preach throughout Laos and maintain contacts with believers in other countries. The law is not well enforced in rural areas; the Kaleum Vangke church did not escape attack despite being affiliated with the Lao Evangelical Church, the only Christian denomination recognised by the government.
The tearing down of Christian homes and eviction of Christians from villages has happened repeatedly in country districts in Laos.
Pray that the law will be upheld throughout Laos and that Christians will be able to worship in peace. Ask the Lord to sustain and strengthen believers in Kaleum Vangke in this unsettling situation.
Open Doors, 21st February 2024
Your urgent prayers are again needed for believers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following another attack on a church in the northeast of the country.
In yet another devastating attack in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at least 15 Christians were killed, including a pastor, when a church service was stormed by militants earlier this month.
Believers from a church called 8e CEPAC in the village of Manzia were gathered for a morning devotion on Monday 5 February when members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked, shooting at least eight people.
Others were shot as they fled. The total number of deaths has not been confirmed, but it could be higher than 15.
Alphonse Mumbere (37), the pastor, leaves behind three children and a wife who is four months pregnant. Two evangelists, Saasita Baraka (34) and Seli Schak (40), were also amongst those killed.
The increasing violence in the region has pushed many Christians to turn to traditional religious beliefs. “We ask everyone who has a good will to continue to pray for us,” shares Pastor Kambale, from a nearby church. “Many Christians are currently turning back to traditional religion and they say it’s better to have the protection [of these traditional gods] because the situation is bad.”
“The progress of God’s Word is suffering because people think God is not going to act,” he continues. “That’s why your prayer is of very paramount importance. Your beloved prayer is very important to strengthen Christians and comfort them. Thank you and we thank you we have faith that you will pray for us.”
Voice of the Martyrs, February 22nd, 2024
Feliciana’s husband pastored a church in a town in Oaxaca, Mexico, until he was killed in 2014 for his bold witness for Christ.
After her husband’s murder, Feliciana struggled to provide for her family, and her two children became seriously ill. With help from foreign believrs, she has been able to continue the work of leading the church in her town, and her children are healthy and thriving. She hopes to start a small business this year to further support her family.
Specific areas within Mexico have a high concentration of indigenous minority groups. These minority communities, which maintain a separate identity and language, are systematically oppressed by local authorities. Christians among them are persecuted by Marxist and animist groups as well as village leaders. Despite persecution, the number of Christians has continued to grow in these areas.
Many people in rural Mexico practice Christo-paganism, a syncretistic blend of ancient pagan practices and Roman Catholicism. There is a strong Marxist (atheistic communist) movement in some southern areas, especially in the state of Chiapas.
Christian converts are rejected by their community and are often forced from their homes and villages in some rural areas. Large groups of Christians have at times been driven from their homes in the south. Converts and faithful witnesses for Christ lose their jobs, inheritances and land. Those who remain in their communities are marginalized, partly because they will not participate in pagan celebrations that feature drunkenness and debauchery.
Steadfast Global, 23rd February 2024
A Vietnamese Christian was given a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence on 26 January after being convicted of ‘secession and incitement’ for holding prayer meetings in his house. According to local media reports, Nay Y Blang (48) who is a member of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, was denied access to legal representation during the hearing.
The trial of ten Christians accused of illegal business operations in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia finally concluded on 8 January. The charges stem from the resale, at a loss, of Bibles purchased from the Three-Self Church. One of the accused, Wang Honglan, spoke in court and while admitting giving away Bibles, she denied that she had committed a crime. The prosecutor is seeking a sentence of at least 5 years for Honglan and others.
Christian man, Fanson Shahid (56) has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of blasphemy on 26 January. Mr. Shahid, who is from Lahore, was arrested in March 2022 after he was accused of making derogatory remarks about the prophet of Islam on social media. His family are seeking help to lodge an appeal against the sentence.
The parents of four young children were murdered on 2 February in an attack believed to have been motivated by their recent conversion from Islam to Christianity. According to neighbours, Twaha Namwoyo (38) and his wife Nadiimu Katooko (27), were killed outside their home in the village of Bulalaka by a group of people who were heard talking in both Arabic and the local language.
Joshua Project, February 23rd, 2024
The Cocos Malays are the majority population of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a territory of Australia. The Malay were the first permanent inhabitants of the island, along with Alexander Hare. They were brought as slaves and members of his harem. When a previous claimant, John Clunies-Ross, arrived a year later in 1827, he took the island back, employing the existing population in the harvest of coconuts.
Because of the unbroken European rule of the islands, the culture has been mostly Western. The Cocos Malay have their own dress code. Those in the Australian mainland, however, conform to Australian dress habits. They have their own language, but to function in Australia, they must be fluent in English.
Since they don’t have any Christ followers among them, the Cocos Islands Malay Muslims will be hard-pressed to give the gospel a chance. There are plenty of vibrant Christian believers in the Cocos Islands who can reach out to them.
Pray that many from today’s people group will allow their spiritual lives to be transformed by the Lord, and that they will begin to publicly praise Him.
Pray for a movement to Jesus to multiply among families and communities. Pray for the Lord to anoint and thrust out workers to the Cocos Malay people. Pray for them to understand that the Lord wants to bless them with spiritual abundance.
Balazs had just returned on Sunday from his trip to Kenya with James Campbell on his final visit there, so had not yet caught up on Daniel Centre news though Dani reported no major issues during his 10-day absence.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is due to visit their partners in the Ukraine, Serve Now and Light of Reformation, in coming months as titular head of Christian Aid.
They are due to sign the contract for the sale of their Cluj depot tomorrow, 24th January, at the lower end of the price they were asking.
James Campbell had accompanied Balazs for good visits to Sargy and Pamoja school and orphanage projects in Kenya as part of his farewell months as CEO of Blythswood. The two schools have now been granted provisional accreditation to open intermediate years 7, 8 and 9. Sargy was rated top of 40 schools on the island of Rusinga.
Balazs then continued, on his own, to visit the Worldwide Outreach Christian radio station in Burundi that Blythswood supports, and which supplies coverage to Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania as well as having a Health Centre in Burundi, mainly for HIV sufferers.
Being just back from Africa, Balazs had not yet had an update from Adi in Jimboliya.
Thank God that all travelling was completed safely. The visa waiver was extended until the end of June 2024.
One of Fraser servers crashed this week, the last data restore point he can find is September 2023. He needs a crucial file from after this date. Please pray. With God all things are possible, including IT solutions.
Dawn is preparing for the prison Bible studies and music sessions. Pray that those who need and would benefit most get the chance to get one of the spaces.
Ministering to prisoners is great, but far better to help people leave crime than pick up the pieces in prison once lives have been wrecked. Ashley, a prison ministry colleague and ex-drug-dealer/gangster, wants to offer a Restorative Justice programme for gang members still in the community and has asked Dawn to be involved.
We would do the same RJ things with different gangs around Wellington. Prisoners have said, “If only I had been shown these things years ago, my life would have been very different.” After the individual gang sessions, we hope to offer a united support group.
Pray for a place to meet, funds, printing and for other groups to allow us use what they’ve developed – to serve the same God and work towards the same goal.
Last week, we met one gang member. The others had jobs on local farms. Few want a criminal life; many feel they have no choice. Ashley’s life, completely changed since he met Jesus, is a witness to the possibilities of what can be achieved with God’s help.
Dawn held the Bible study in Drakenstein Medium A today on Depression, how to recognise it and help both others and yourself. A prisoner told of how even warders confide in him and ask him to pray for them because they see how he lives for Jesus.
International Christian Concern, 27th January 2024
Armenian Christian Hakop Gochumyan is still being detained in Iran. Last summer Hakop, an Armenian citizen, travelled to Iran to visit his wife Elisa’s family, an Iranian-Armenian.
On August 16th, they were arrested while visiting their friend’s home. Their arrests coincided with arrests of dozens of other Christian converts in Iran. Elisa was held for several months but was released and returned to Armenia with their children. Hakop’s trial was scheduled for January 7th. His current location and well-being are still unknown.
While Hakop and Elisa live in Armenia and only were visiting family in Iran, Elisa’s father, Rafi Shahverdian, was a well-known pastor in Yerevan after fleeing Iran in the 1990s. It is reported that Christian literature was found with them when they were arrested in Iran.
The minority Armenian Christians are given certain protections under the Islamic Republic’s legal system. They are, however, forbidden from any proselytizing to Iranian Muslims, and Farsi language Christian literature is banned. Iran is estimated to be holding more than 100 Christians in prison detention by the end of 2023.